After reading over Rowe’s three case studies involving various architectural designs, I found the second study, focused on making a building from a “Formal Type” to resonate most closely with the work I do outside of the classroom. My role as a GA is full of situations where our UX team is responsible for evaluating the interfaces and experiences of student-facing services (many of which have long-standing design patterns, for better or worse). As such, much of our design work is done piecemeal, and involves

[a] process of refinement, adjustment, and embellishment…[with] subsequent modifications to the overall arrangement of the complex [arising] through attempts to extend the strategy of expressing various site constraints (18)

This becomes increasingly evident when compounded with the fact that we are not designing for students of IU Bloomington alone, or even the entire IU system. Instead, our team works collaboratively with developers in the Kuali Foundation, particularly on student registration. This foundation for our group’s activities means that we are effectively making prescriptions for as many as 12 other universities of comparable size to IU, each with their own scheduling systems as conventions (e.g. semesters vs. trimesters vs. quarter systems, etc.).

The result is similar to Rowe’s observations in this case study, “often involving the a priori use of an organizing principle or model to direct the decision-making process.” (18) The system as a whole moves very slowly, with small visual or UI changes requiring consensus across a wide variety of stakeholders. It also impacts our own process to a certain extent, as we are also frequently constrained by the framework itself when we provide suggestions for new systems or processes for something as complex as class registration. I feel that many of these complexities are due to the long history of the system that is currently in place “the earlier preoccupations…exerting a pronounced influence over subsequent lines of investigation.” (19)

None of these observations are meant to be a direct criticism of any one group or system, but rather an acknowledgement of the situated context in which a great deal of interaction design work takes place. I’ve worked with the UX team here on everything from small wording tweaks to dialogue boxes, to proposing entirely new tools for sifting and sorting through the hundreds of classes offered here at IU. None of these projects is devoid of preconceived notions of what “scheduling” means or the difference between a term and a semester is. Design itself does not take place in a vacuum, and our goal should be to tailor our design approach in a way that “constraints may be absorbed and whenever possible inverted into positive elements.” (34)